Choose an application that I often use and add a new feature, while also pushing myself creatively as a designer.
I’ve been a loyal user since 2014 and a great deal of important monetary transactions have taken place through the app. In the span of my usage, I have familiarized myself with the app and developed a better understanding of its features and user interface. I have witnessed dozens of changes, updates, and innovations that have refreshed the app and kept it modern throughout the years. So, I guess you can say, I’m a Venmo veteran.
Why add a check-splitting feature?
It didn’t take me long to decide that an integrative check-splitting feature would be an ideal addition. I’ve split rent, utilities, groceries, concert tickets, food, and drinks over the past six years and I must say, a check-splitting feature built into Venmo that would automatically request party members a calculated amount sounds like a breakthrough. It was clear! I wanted to research and design something practical, foolproof, and beautiful: a seamless check-splitting Venmo feature that can be used to solve and prevent the hassle of splitting checks and a surefire way to get the job done.
At the onset of a design project or activity in general, a set of goals has to be defined. I believe that goal-setting for anything I do is important. One of my University Psychology courses covered Locke’s Goal Setting Theory of Motivation, which emphasized the importance of goal identification. By incorporating the five principles of goal setting (Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity), I am better prepared to execute a solid project plan and get the most out of myself during, and after, the project.
For the Redesign:
- To empathize with users and utilize the Design Thinking Approach in order to ensure a Human Centered Design.
- To revolutionize the Venmo app by creating an intuitive check-splitting feature that anyone could navigate and use.
- To design and produce an interface that enhances the user experience and completely addresses user pain points.
For Personal Growth and Development
- To foster a novel idea and improve my design skills including: user research, analyzing data, producing task flows and wireframes, designing a beautiful interface, and prototyping my finished design.
- To complete my first design project from start to finish, and challenge myself creatively while adhering to my own design process and principles.
My Design Process
Phase 1: Empathy
Interpreting the Challenge
What am I designing?
A new Venmo “experience” that allows users to split checks effortlessly and efficiently. The feature will allow individuals to split checks without having to navigate away from the Venmo app nor use a third party service to make tedious calculations.
Who is this for?
Venmo users are my target audience, especially groups. They regularly send and receive payments for various purposes, whether it’s splitting large expenses such as rent or smaller expenditures like dinner with friends. Based on this assumption, I placed all the surveyed participants on a spectrum in regards to their Venmo familiarity and usage.
When and Where is this going to be used?
A circle of friends hang out in a bar. Roommates share rent and utility bills. In both of these situations, they are stuck with one single check or statement. This new feature will help groups of people easily divvy up their portion of a restaurant tab, a cab fare, rent share, or any miscellaneous purchase, on the spot.
Why is this important?
Venmo users need a low-friction, low-learning feature to split a single check amongst family and friends. The Venmo app’s purpose and popularity stem from its ability to offer quick monetary transfers. Therefore, adding this built-in feature would facilitate an easier check-splitting process and provide users with confidence when dealing with tedious calculations. It doesn’t exist in the current platform, so this feature would have a massive impact on the current user base.
Understanding the Company — Venmo
Venmo was founded in 2009 by two former college roommates who wanted a better way to send and receive money, ultimately eliminating the hassle of paying each other back. The app has thus turned into a social payment app and is “more than just an easy way to pay.” Users are able to view select payments made by their friends, give them an opportunity to make comments and start new conversations under these transactions. Venmo’s parent company, PayPal, launched a debit card in June 2018, known as the Venmo card. Along with the Venmo Card, more companies are accepting Venmo payments in-store and online at checkout. As the company continues to grow, Venmo makes several refinements that serve its mission: “To make it easier for you to pay your friends and family. Money can be awkward, and we want you to be able to spend less time thinking about it, and more time enjoying stuff that matters to you.”
User Research & Data
Having determined the objective and scope of the project, I began my research by reaching out to Venmo users through a Google Form (Survey) and subsequently proceeded with the interviews. I surveyed a total of forty-three individuals and conducted 20 phone interviews to discuss and elaborate on their responses. Questions were aimed to identify their usage habits and experience with some of Venmo’s social features. I also included some queries regarding a hypothetical check-splitting feature within Venmo. I needed to get a better understanding of the usage habits and behavior of the targeted consumer base.
In total, I asked each individual 24 questions (not counting demographic questions).
The following are sample questions asked:
1. How often do you use Venmo?
2. How often have you used Venmo to purchase a good or service online or in-person when given the option to?
3. In what situations would splitting checks within Venmo be the MOST beneficial?
4. Do you find it difficult to split checks within the Venmo app (without using any other calculator or bill-splitting tool).
5. A bill-splitting feature would honestly save me and others _________?
6. Have you “liked” a transaction in Venmo?
7. When paying or requesting another Venmo user, how often do you incorporate emojis into the payment description?
8. If you could add any feature to the Venmo app, what would you add?
9. How would your life be different, if you could not use Venmo to make and request payments from others?
All of their unique responses to the questions I asked gave me a well-rounded perspective on the importance of the app in users’ lives and how a check-splitting feature would benefit them. Through these valuable insights, I was also able to gain a sense of how well Venmo’s mission “to make cash transactions more social” resonates among users.
Among the 43 Venmo users I surveyed, there were 14 males and 29 females. The age of the users ranged from 18 to 25 years old.
Of the individuals surveyed, 81.3% have been using the app for at least 2 years.
This is a fair and representative sample of the current Venmo user base since Venmo has over 40 million active users according to Paypal’s 2019 earnings report. Nearly three quarters of their user base (74%) are below the age of 35.
Furthermore, 55.8% of the users I surveyed noted that Venmo is one of their phone’s home screen apps.
More about Venmo Users
I asked the 43 Venmo users to describe the app with three adjectives.
Top 3 Adjectives used: Easy, Convenient, Quick
The top three reasons why the users I interviewed choose Venmo:
(1) It’s convenient and easy to use, (2) It’s the most used payment app within friend groups, (3) It allows you to not carry cash or a wallet around.
Additionally, 81.4% of the people sampled have “liked” a transaction, 62.8% incorporate emojis into the payment description majority of the time, and 100% have either heard or used the phrase “Just Venmo Me.”
Phase 2: Analysis
Venmo does not have a feature that can pay/request multiple people at once or split a check among individuals.
“I need to split rent and utilities with my housemates for this month.”
“Let’s figure out how much everyone owes for tonight’s dinner.”
“Who do we need to Venmo for the concert tickets I bought?”
After completing my user research and synthesizing my data, I identified two personas that took into account certain patterns in the survey & interview responses. The personas represent two distinct types of users that I kept coming across during my research. My Venmo redesign process was guided by these two types of users, allowing me to make informed design decisions.
Who Do You Relate To?
Do you relate more to Natalie, using Venmo to pay for rent and utilities while also taking responsibility for splitting checks in order to prevent disagreement and confusion? Or are you more like Jung who uses Venmo almost every day whenever you can at an online or in-person checkout and is more of a “I’ll charge you later” person? Or are you a little bit of both?
Regardless, both Natalie and Jung have struggled with the dreaded purchases that need to be split whether it being after securing concert tickets to their favorite bands or after a friend reunion at their local burger joint.
Don’t worry, I designed with Natalie, Jung, and all other Venmo users in mind.
Phase 3: Ideation
Before sketching and wireframing, I wanted to walk through the exact steps that users would encounter in the new feature. All of my user research came to fruition as I produced a story and a journey that every user would enjoy. Taking into account even the “least tech-savvy” user, I created a flow that would mitigate potential errors and have clear call-to-actions.
Following my user flow, I sketched all the screens that the user would progress through during the check-splitting process. I abided by the usability heuristics and created a minimalistic design that could be navigated even under large cognitive loads (i.e. a noisy restaurant or with people hovering over you). I wanted to transform the difficult check-splitting routine into a hassle-free experience! These were some of my final sketches with the trusty pen and paper.
Phase 4: Design
The first step of my design phase is to bring my sketches to life. My wireframe was produced to:
- Build a flexible middle ground between my Sketches and my Prototype
- Provide a visual framework of the overall direction of the redesign
- Envision what the user will expect to see and where call to actions are placed
You can check out the final interactive prototype here!
Phase 5: Test
I wanted to get direct feedback and see how real Venmo users interacted with my product. I chose to have 5 individuals test the prototype. According to Jakob Nielsen, “Testing with 5 people lets you find almost as many usability problems as you’d find using many more test participants. With 5 users, you almost always get close to user testing’s maximum benefit-cost ratio.”
Due to COVID-19, I had to send the prototype to the users and be on a video call with them as they went through the motions.
Following usability testing, I found that 80% of the users found too many of the selection buttons difficult to press. A positive insight was that 100% of the users were able to access the Profile Menu and Hamburger Menu, go through the check-splitting process easily, and properly request or discard a check split.
Therefore, I made the appropriate adjustments and increased the button sizes along with important call-to-actions like the ‘Split Check’ and ‘Pay or Request’ buttons on the home screen.
Phase 6: Conclusion
The next step in the product design process is a successful handoff. After reading numerous articles and stories about developer handoffs, collaboration and communication between teams are of paramount importance. I would work with the developer team and find a way to facilitate the process and get the product into the right hands while being an active listener. This would ensure that both teams would meet their needs and requirements, while finding common ground in working together.
Since this was my first project, I was finally able to apply my design principles into a real-world case study and tackle inevitable challenges. I realized that developing my own design process took time and necessary adjustments were required. My proposed timeline contained certain phases, but I quickly had to adapt and modify along the way in order to effectively reach the end goal and keep my project user-centered. Throughout the project timeline, I always found ways to improve my methods by watching videos and reading blogs/articles. From outlining my first sketches to completing the final prototype, I continuously pushed myself to grow as a designer by cultivating my own guiding principles and later implementing them into my design process.
This overall experience ultimately reinforced my love for Interaction Design. Whether it was owning the product’s research and synthesis or completing the “Empathy” phase of my process, I enjoyed orchestrating my ideas and designs into meaningful, yet thought-provoking stories. Compassion is at the heart of my work, as I desire to find solutions to common problems among users’ lives. My Venmo Redesign helped me understand the importance of my product’s quality and how it can truly impact other people’s lives.
As a designer, I learned to care about every single detail, but to never lose sight of the bigger picture!
Thank you so much for reading!